Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Blast from My Past


While I'm getting back into the swing of things after my holiday, I thought you might be interested to see this project from way back when.  In 2002 my mum celebrated a big birthday (no, I'm not telling!) and when asked what gift she would like, said she'd love a 'proper' leather jewellery box.  So we trotted off to see what was available but I wasn't happy with most of those we saw:  they were either too small or not the right configuration or just not well finished at all and with Mum's birthday only a few weeks away, I still hadn't found 'the one'. 

One night, unable to sleep, I was downstairs at 2.00 a.m. when, suddenly, just out of the blue, I had this vision of how Mum's box should be.  I got my sketchbook and pencil and by 6.00 a.m. (yes, an all-nighter!), I had designed the very thing, down to the last detail.  Next morning I showed my OH the sketches and declared that I was going to make Mum the perfect jewellery box, with slots for watches and hangers for earrings and drawers for rings and ....... well, you get the idea.  At that point, I think the concensus was that I had finally lost my marbles but not once did anyone say I couldn't do it. 

Over the next few weeks, for hours each day, I skived leather (i.e. removed the 'flesh' from the back of the leather to make it thin) and cut board and we lived in a constant fug of leather shavings and board scraps.  My Dad and close friends would pop round from time to time to see how it was going and never once remarked on the state of the living room, bless them all! 

I recorded some of the work along the way and thought you might like to see the work in progress and the final product.  Remember - this started as large pieces of heavy grey board and two calf skins and everything was done by hand.

Here are the photos:

The inside of the box, finished and ready for the casing and hinges.

Here you can see the bare board, covered in leather, and one of the earring drawers.  For earrings, I created a sort of 'suspension file' system, with leather tabs on mahogany hangers, with holes punched in the tabs, through which Mum could hang her earrings.  Worked like a treat!

These are various open compartments:

the ring drawer, with padded insert (top left)
a watch drawer, long and narrow (x 4) (middle right)
a longer, deep drawer for brooches, etc. (bottom).

Each of the drawers was lined with raw silk (as was the inner of the outer casing you'll see later) and each compartment (i.e. the empty space where a drawer would fit) was lined with blue book cloth.

The handles were mahogany cubes, cut from mahogany square strip wood, tipped with pewter, screwed through the drawer fronts. 

Here you can see the removable travel jewellery box, which fastens with a pop fastener.  Inside there is a ring tray, a space for earrings and a deeper space for more bulky items or necklaces.  This box was lined with silk also.

As explained above, the empty compartment is lined with book cloth, which you can see here.

The finished box.  As you can see, the base and top have now been added, as have the doors, which are L-shaped and open out around a concealed circular hinge (which I designed at around 4.00 a.m. on the morning of my brainwave!).  The hinge itself wasn't particularly difficult to achieve, but the construction had to be planned carefully and executed very accurately to get the desired effect.  Aaaaah, the things we do for love!

As you can see, the doors open outwards as two L-shaped units, lined with silk and with hangers on the inside to take necklaces.  You can see where the inner box (as above) fits inside the outer construction. 

The doors are panelled at the front - you will probably see this more clearly in the final photograph.  The top panel of each door is inlaid with a hand-embossed pewter panel, in the style of Rennie Mackintosh.  The pewter panel has also been enamelled in places to give some colour.

Unfortunately, this photograph of the pewter panel is not the best but you'll get the idea.  As well as picking out some of the pattern with enamel, I also lightly hammered other parts of the panel to give further texture.  IRL it works really well. 

The back of the panel was filled with silicone to try and prevent the embossed areas from being accidentally knocked back in
during day-to-day handling.

The finished box - hopefully you will see the door panels more clearly now.  The lower panels are simply sunk into the doors to add interest.

The finished box stands around 13 inches tall (32 cms) and is approximately 9 inches (22.5 cm) wide and deep. 

It took a total of 16 sq ft of calf leather, most of which had to be skived, even though I had had the skins split thinner at the tannery.

It took a total of eight weeks, working much of each afternoon and evening, to make from scratch.  There are an incredible number of separate pieces to each component and some very careful measuring and planning had to be done before each stage. 

I have to say that this is one of my biggest achievements.  It is in use daily and eight years later is still all in one piece (with the exception of one small piece of pewter, which I must go and reattach!).  It was a real labour of love and Mum still delights in showing it off to anyone who hasn't already seen it!

So, if you've made it this far, well done you for sticking with it and thank you for being interested enough not to give up and go eat chocolate instead!

I'm working on getting some cards sorted now, as quickly as possible, and 'normal service will be resumed' in the next few days.

Happy crafting.


  1. Sheryl Rogerson (from NZ)22 June 2010 at 03:06

    What an amazing gift Peri - you are so very talented!

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! This is absolutely amazing and what a huge amount of work must've gone into it! I'm stunned Peri!

  3. You are super talented Peri, not that I didn't know that all along...lol This is indeed a labour of love and well done on an excellent gift for your Mom. Wow, I am in awe! hugs Sharon x

  4. you made it yourself???

  5. Peri, you have done an amaizing job!
    Great box, sure your mum was over the moon :)

  6. WOW Peri - this is AMAZING!!!! Not only gorgeous but soo well planned out - and I'm not even going to start on how talented you are to actually MAKE this - no wonder your mother LOVES it - it's a masterpiece of leather and love

  7. Wow,this absolutely fantastic.What a gift to give someone.Something that will be treasured for many,many years.Elisa.x


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